We chat to the enigmatic Lani Finau about her start in the natural beauty business, practising wellness and planning your future.
Do you recall the moment you were first interested in natural health?
I do actually! It was (strangely) a very definitive moment. I was 11, Mum had just enrolled me into Netball, so I attended a 2-day coaching clinic. Just to set the scene; before this, I was the kid that never played much sport — some dancing and gymnastics here and there, perhaps a game of tag or two at school, but for the most part tree climbing, hide and seek playing, and milkshake drinking filled my days. I wasn’t complaining.
By day two of that clinic, something changed. I decided I wanted to give this netball thing a real crack. I remember sitting on our break at the clinic, zipping open my lunch box, staring down at the half squashed, supermarket edition cupcake residing in it, and thinking — nope, that piece of sugary smoosh just isn’t going to cut it anymore. The next day I snacked on hummus, carrot, and celery sticks for the first time in my life. And that was that! My love of health and natural wellbeing was born. I began devouring this knowledge like it was a chocolate smoothie: eager, hurriedly, ready for more.
By the end of that initial Netball season, I’d made my first state team. Keen to continue running down this path, Dad said: “If you want to succeed at anything, you have to do the extra one percenters”. For me, this translated to eating well, nourishing my mind as much as my body, and understanding what wellbeing truly means. Fast forward a few years and I guess that interest in natural health just overtook the love of Netball. And, well… here we are!
What did you study at Endeavour College of Natural Health?
I studied the Bachelor of Health Science, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine — and I loved every single second of it. It gave me the best of both worlds; science and evidence-based Nutrition paired synonymously with natural health and traditional practices. This duo was interlaced throughout the degree — we were taught to find and understand balance between the two, and I feel incredibly grateful to now be able to pull from knowledge in both areas as a practising Nutritionist.
It’s a true credit to Endeavour and the lecturers there that helped build our practitioner toolkits. We’re taught to view each individual health issue in more ways than one. To place it under the looking glass. Pick it apart. Find the nuances. Collaborate with other professionals. Then, settle on a solution. I cherish that. The health of any individual is too important to place them in a one-size-fits-all category. It’s our precious duty as practitioners to find their unique fit.
Why did you choose to study at Endeavour?
This one’s simple — because it felt like a family. When I walked into traditional University’s on open days after graduating high school, all I remember is the distinct (and seemingly unsettling) feeling of being one fish amongst a sea of thousands. I sat at the back corner of a lecture hall for the intro to the same degree as I studied at Endeavour and I don’t think I had ever felt smaller in my life. (Seriously, I should’ve got Mum to check my height when I got home that day, just to be sure). This wasn’t how I wanted to learn, taking notes in the back corner of an oversized room, too scared to put my hand up and ask a question because a) 14,000 pairs of eyes would turn to look at me… and judge and b) the lecturer — being 7000 km away and all — wouldn’t hear me and I’d be forced to repeat the question at least 3 more times. Not my idea of an inspiring learning environment. Enter please: Endeavour College.
I got off on level 2 of the Sydney Endeavour campus at their open day to a group of smiling lecturers and staff, each holding a freshly brewed herbal tea tincture to calm those first-day jitters. Now, anyone that knows me knows that tea is the way to my heart, aside from coffee, of course. But beyond this sweet sentiment, it was that feeling of family that made me fall in love with Endeavour. Instead of feeling “unseen”, it was more akin to being the only person in the room. The attention to each and every attendee on the day was unparalleled – and this carried on throughout the entire degree, each lecturer making you feel heard, understood, empowered. I had found my place.
What did you love the most about your degree?
The people. I don’t think I’d ever been surrounded by such a well-kindred group before, all like-minded and relentlessly individual in their own respect. No question ever felt off-limits. If you needed to take a minute to clarify a new concept, the class would stop. Workshop it. Smooth out the grooves. Figure out what it was that did or didn’t make sense, and build from there. No judgement, only intrigue — just as a learning environment should be.
We would bounce ideas off each other, constantly evolving our own understandings, helping one another see every topic from a different perspective – picking them apart like they were the last slices of cheesecake. In the classroom, we were always hungry for more.
Beyond the lectures, these fellow students soon became my family. Nearby coffee shops our sanctuary. Breakout rooms our dining tables. Each class its own little haven. We laughed over Brussel sprout memes, drank an obscene amount of caffeine, and blamed our bad days on Mercury being in retrograde. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I will cherish the people I met through Endeavour forever, this I know for sure.
Did you face any challenges while studying and how did you overcome them?
Absolutely. I don’t think anyone goes through a tertiary education without challenges — the work/life/social/sleep balance struggle is real. So here’s my shoutout to all you students out there. Don’t give up! You’re so close, trust me, the degree will fly by before you know it. Enjoy the process… sleepless nights and all… because one day, you really will miss it.
Coming back to my own challenges though, I’d say it was just the constant “constantness” of it all. The lack of downtime. The go-go-go. Studying full time meant I had 3-4 days of contact hours each week. Then (on top of my job as a Sports Coach) halfway through my degree, I decided I was ready to start getting some industry experience. I knew one of the main avenues I wanted to take my Nutrition degree down was in writing and content, so, 7 minutes before an early lecture one morning I sat *siping frantically at my #oatlatte* applying for a 2-day a week Journalism internship at wellness and lifestyle company, SWIISH. To my absolute surprise, they ended up hiring me! To say I was excited and shocked all rolled into one was an understatement. Just between you and me, I remember doing a real-life victory dance, by myself, in the elevator on my way out of the interview after they told me I got the job. At least the building security would’ve got a good laugh out of that one.
However, the reality of the internship on top of the degree was this; no days off. If I wasn’t at uni I was interning, if I wasn’t interning I was working. Then, in true teenage style, I wasn’t prepared to let my social life take the back seat. This became one of the thousand balls in my little juggling act. Of course, I dropped a ball or two now and then but soon learnt this was nothing chocolate, beautiful friends, and a little self-care couldn’t fix. Trust the process.
What are three tips you would give someone looking to start a career in natural health?
I love this question.
- Intern and gain as much real-world experience as you can. The beauty of the natural health industry is that there are endless avenues you can go down. Find your niche by figuring out what you’re most passionate about (this will be trial and error, and that’s okay!). Then, figure out what steps you can start taking now to get yourself closer to that goal. In most circumstances, the best option for this is an internship. If you like a company, reach out to them, explain your interests, your studies, and how much you would love to gain some experience working for them – even if they’re not actively looking for an intern. There’s no harm in asking. Taking initiative is important.
- Start now. I often have people ask me how long I waited until I began sharing my health knowledge (via my blog and Instagram) because they want to – but feel there’s a bit of an unspoken ruling behind it all. Personally, I started about a year or so into my degree – but I think you should feel empowered to start as early as you want. Think of it like learning a really delicious cookie recipe, but never actually baking it for people to try. How will you know if it needs a little less sugar or a little more chocolate? You have to start making your cookies so you can finesse the process. You’ll never stop learning, so you may as well start sharing all the brilliant ideas you’ve got filling up in that little brain of yours. Trust me, the world wants to hear it.
- Invest in the other wonderful upcoming people in your industry. They are your support network, not your competition. Collaborate. Share ideas. Find ways to start entering the industry together. Even though it may feel like you need to connect and collaborate with already established natural health professionals, just don’t underestimate the power of everyone starting out alongside you. You never know what wonderful things they will go on to do, so nurturing and investing in those relationships early is important.
What does your wellness practice look like now?
If there’s one wellness practice I’m religious with, it’s my evening rituals. No matter how chaotic the day gets, I know that I can always come back to my sacred space – the bedroom – to recentre, recalibrate, and reconnect with myself. For me, this encompasses a few things: I never bring work into my room. I always light the space with candles, my salt lamp, and dim fairy lighting. I turn on my diffuser. I play my sleep playlist gently over the speaker. I burn some sage to cleanse the day and put my black hematite crystal necklace on to ground and relieve any built-up stress… (Can you tell I’m a hardcore #TeamWoo-Woo girl?). I read a little bit, and then I write… until my eyes can’t stay open any longer. This process is cathartic. The words that come out onto paper constantly surprise me. They bring perspective to whatever is weighing on me that day, the good and the bad.
What’s next for you?
I have a few exciting things in the works! I’ve just started taking bookings for my own clinical nutrition practice, so seeing clients in my new little clinic space has been incredible – I’m looking forward to helping many more beautiful people in there. Then the aforementioned mentioned company I interned for ended up offering me a job last year so I’m still working for them now at SWIISH. I love it. My role as a Nutritionist is in content so my days are filled with everything from wellness writing to recipe development and shooting in our studio kitchen. We have a lot of awesome projects we’re working on which I can’t wait to continue.
I’ll also be hosting my first Women’s Wellness event on March 5th at We Are Mindful Studio in Cronulla which I’m thrilled about. I’ve teamed up with Jasper Downes, founder of Dusa Beauty – and we’ll spend the evening talking all things inner and outer beauty. There’s also a podcast in the works called ‘Let’s Be Frank’ where myself and three of my Nutritionist friends will unpack the truth behind health, food, and wellbeing – no fluffy business, just the facts. In the background of all that I’m still doing Sports Coaching where I can, purely because I love working with teens. I’m looking to combine these sessions with some nutrition talks soon. Then, finally – stay tuned for an upcoming recipe e-book to come!